Some stonkingly awesome news broke yesterday that folks might have missed given the current volume of the book blogosphere, so I’m going to reiterate it here:
Tor and Tor UK have announced that ALL their ebook content will become DRM free over the next three months.
This is huge, people. A day that should truly be celebrated as a victory of common sense and vision over narrow-sighted finger-in-the-dyke thinking.
Why? Glad you asked.
To begin with – What’s DRM?
From Wikipedia: Digital rights management (DRM) is a class of access control technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals with the intent to limit the use of digital content and devices after sale.
In other words, it’s the shit on your CDs that stops you being able to play them on your PC. It’s the shit that means when you buy a new computer game like Skyrim, you have to download an 8 gig ‘patch’ before you can frackin’ play it, because the developers didn’t actually put the finished game on the DVDs you bought at the store. And it’s the shit that means if you were to go and buy an ebook from Amazon for your Kindle, you couldn’t read it on your Nook. Even though you BOUGHT THE BOOK and should be able to read it however the hells you want to.
DRM does not stop eBook piracy. This is simply a fallacy. A quick trawl of the dozens of massive online pirate coves will result in a hit on pretty much any titles you like, despite the publishers of those titles ‘protecting’ these e-titles with DRM. Meanwhile, the people who actually do the right thing and purchase their eBooks through legitimate sources get prison-sexed. By purchasing a title protected by DRM, these consumers become locked into a single e-reader format. If they decide to change formats at a later date, if the format becomes obsolete, if the retailer goes the way of Borders, those readers run the very real risk of being unable to read the words they already bought and paid for.
Furthermore, many pirates cite DRM as a ‘reason’ why they make DRM protected content available. “I’m doing a favor for the consumer,” goes the argument. “They just want to be able to use the content they already paid for. I’m not a bastard thief. I’m a service provider.”
Yes, this decision by Tor & Tor UK makes it easier for ebook piracy to occur. But the truth is, ebook piracy already occurs. If someone wants to steal your work badly enough, they will steal it. In many pirate/hacker/cracker circles, there’s a perverse kind of pride taken in cracking DRM, and derisive snorting when said DRM is cracked with relative ease. Breaking DRM is some people’s idea of fun. It doesn’t prevent theft, and it actually makes the idea of theft more attractive to some people. And honestly, publishers? The kind of DRM placed on e-books can be cracked by anyone with a yellow belt in google-fu. I can fucking do it, and I need to call my wife for help when I want to turn my Macbook on.
Many consumers consider DRM a fundamental violation of the spirit of their purchase. When I buy an album, I am not renting it. I am BUYING it. If I want to listen to it on my computer, I should be able to do so. If I want to copy the files into my iTunes so I don’t have to get off my lazy ass every time I want to listen to a particular song, I should be able to do that. And if I want to copy it from the CD that I bought and paid for onto my iphone, you’re goddamn right I should be able to do that too. I BOUGHT it. It’s MINE now. According to the law as it stands now, even backing up the content that you bought is illegal.
As a lad who grew up in the 80s, I went through the financial buggery of having to transfer my music collection from tape to CD. It’s outrageous to suggest people should have to do something like that again in an age of electronic media, simply because an e-reader format goes the way of the Sega Dreamcast.
Finally, this move allows publishers (publishers who follow Tor’s lead, that is) to get out from under the mighty thumb of That Which Is Amazon. In order for us to avoid a situation where Amazon has a complete monopoly over the eBook market (and a high-school economics student can tell you why monopolies are bad, m’kay, but Charlie Stross explains the intricacies of it here better than I ever could) publishers need to free their content from DRM and allow other vendors to retail it.
This is a visionary and dramatic step by Tom Doherty Associates (of which Tor and Tor UK are a part), a victory for consumers, and a red-letter day in the history of publishing. I for one am immensely proud that I’m soon-to-be published by the company that is taking this all important (and hopefully trend-setting) step into a world with just a tiiiiiiny bit less idiocy in it, and I urge everyone to show their support by buying as many Tor books as you can once the DRM wall comes down.
There’s this book called STORMDANCER coming out in September on Tor UK that I hear is pretty awesome….
OH COME ON, YOU DIDN’T THINK YOU’D GET AWAY WITHOUT A PLUG DID YOU?!?